United States News Digest
Texas Prosecutor Subpoenas DeLay's Phone Records
Travis County, Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle subpoenaed telephone records of deposed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's home, his political campaign, and two phones of his daughter (and political operative), Dani DeLay Ferro, on Oct. 13. No further information was provided in news reports as to whether this material is for an ongoing investigation, or for DeLay's trial. Earlier in the week, DeLay's attorneys announced their intention to subpoena Earle and one of his assistants to testify about what DeLay characterizes as their abuse of the grand juries which indicted him, but most recently, Earle rejected subpoena service.
U.S. Holding Juveniles for Life Violates International Law
The U.S. is violating international law by holding juvenile offenders in prison for life without possibility of parole, according to a report filed Oct. 12 by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They say that 2,225 juvenile offenders are serving life sentences without parole in the U.S., compared to a total of 12 throughout the rest of the world. Laws allow such imprisonment in 42 of the 50 states; Virginia, Louisiana, and Michigan are the worst.
Lawmakers Urge Increase in Low-Income Heating Assistance
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) unsuccessfully tried to attach an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill last week that called for increasing funding to help the poor pay heating bills, from $2 billion to $5.1 billion. Although a slight bipartisan majority supported the increase (50 votes), it was short of the needed two-thirds of the Senate needed to increase the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
But the White House is trying to cut LIHEAP by $298 million, which is 15%. The program is run by a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, which released a statement Oct. 10 that kept the door open to all funding options. However, funding can only be increased if Congress approves it through an appropriations bill.
"We have never had prices so high and increase so quickly," said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. He expects more than a million additional applicants, a 20% increase over last year.
Senators Propose Gulf Coast Recovery Agency
Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) have introduced a bill to create a "Gulf Coast Recovery and Disaster Preparedness Agency." The bipartisan bill, said Republican Gregg, will ensure that the Federal government will continue to "commit significant Federal resources" to the region, while creating an "accountable structure for ensuring that these taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and in a systematic way." A "Gulf Coast Revitalization Authority" will be set up within the Agency, made up of Federal, state, and local officials, to develop a comprehensive plan.
The first two considerations for the plan are: "The impact of public infrastructure on minimizing the damage caused by future hurricanes," and "the impact public infrastructure can have in improving the opportunities for economic development in the region, and enhance public services available to residents."
LaRouche Hater Issues Threats Against Iran
Threats are the only language Iran understands, claims Michael Rubin, one of the American Enterprise Institute's official "LaRouche haters", in an article for the Observer Oct. 9. Rubin, who briefly served in Iraq for the Defense Department under former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, writes that the UK is being too soft on terrorism in southern Iraq, the British zone. British soldiers did nothing when the Iran-backed Hezbollah (of Lebanon) set up camps and took over areas in Iraq, even preventing Shi'ite girls from going to school, he claims. As a consequence, bombs of a "type used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard ... and groups that it supports in Lebanon" killed eight British soldiers. These killings were due to "the impotence and naiveté of UK diplomacy," he adds. Now the Brits have to use "all" their might against terrorists supported by Iran, and Iran itself, because, chickenhawk Rubin says, "Armies not words, are a diplomat's most potent tool."
Bush/Cheney Propose New Farm Globalization Schemes
On Oct. 10, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman announced that the U.S. would reduce its farm subsidies by 60%, as an action to favor free (rigged) trade progress at the next World Trade Organization conference in December, in Hong Kong.
Thereafter, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter to the Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, warning: "Let me be clear, the Congress will be writing the next farm bill in 2007. I am deeply concerned the Administration is using the current negotiations to reshape farm policy without the full input of Congress and grassroots support."
Portman's Oct. 10 speech was an especially arrogant statement of the usual cartel-serving line that Third World nations will be lifted out of poverty if the U.S., Europe, and advanced economies allow totally free tradei.e., tariff-free entry for even more food imports from low-cost, slave-level commercial farm sites in Africa, India, China, South America, etc. Following the same script, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said EU farm subsidies could be cut by 70%.
Chambliss's letter spelled out five points under which he would judge the acceptability of a possible WTO pact arising from the December WTO meeting (to be passed in 2006, and implemented in 2007). They are:
1) "No net reduction in the farm safety net" in the U.S.
2) No singling out of U.S.-produced cotton for subsidy reduction.
3) At least 10 years to implement changes.
4) Allowing decent levels of counter-cyclical payments to U.S. farm producers (when returns are low from sales); and
5) A "peace clause" between nations, to stop challenging each other's farm programs.
GOP Having Difficulty Recruiting Senate Candidates
Many potentially strong Republican candidates have refused to run for Senate seats next year. The GOP's favored Senate candidate to run against Democrat Robert Byrd in West Virginia was Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the daughter of popular former Republican Gov. Arch Moore, but she turned the idea down. Governor John Hoeven declined to run against Democrat Kent Conrad in North Dakota, even after Bush political advisor Karl Rove went there to try to change his mind. In Florida, two popular Republican politicians, State House speaker Allan Bense and former Rep. Joe Scarborough, turned down a call to edge out notorious former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and run in her place against Democrat Bill Nelson. Similarly, in Michigan, Rep. Candice Miller and Domino Pizza CEO David Bran both refused to take on Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Vermont ex-Gov. Jim Douglas has refused to run for the Senate seat being vacated by independent Jim Jeffords, ceding it to independent Rep. Bernie Sanders. Races are often won or lost a year in advance by choice of the right candidate.
Goss Has Decided Not To Investigate Tenet
CIA Director Porter Goss has wisely decided not to convene an accountability review board for former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and other top Agency officials, to punish them for alleged 9/11 oversights, as recommended by the CIA's Inspector General. Tenet had intimated that he would defend himself and tell what had actually happened within the Bush Administration, if sanctions were threatened against him.
Major Business Groups Split with Bush on Patriot Act
Some of the country's largest business groupsincluding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Realtors, and the Financial Services Rountablehave sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, endorsing amendments that would restrict the government's power to obtain business records under the Patriot Act.
"Confidential filesrecords about our customers and employees, as well as our trade secrets and other proprietary informationcan too easily be obtained and disseminated under investigative powers expanded by the Patriot Act," the letter said, adding that the proposed powers "lack sufficient checks and balances."